Top 10 Essential Japanese Business Etiquettes

marunouchi buildings | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

Japan is among the top economies of the world. It is home of some of the world’s largest corporations and has a whole range of globally recognized and respected brands like Toyota, Hitachi,Honda and many more. Japan has business links in every corner of the world.

Japanese are renowned for politeness and elaborate business etiquettes and protocols. It has a unique business culture. In Japanese high business culture high level of importance is given to these etiquette and protocol during any type of business affairs. Organizational structure and hierarchy are important and long-term relationships are of far greater value.

Japanese Business culture is like a complex web for outsiders and here is an attempt to simplify it with these essential Japanese business etiquettes.



History of timekeeping devices – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Punctuality and adherence to deadlines are customary in japan. Being on time every time, is the mantra to build trust and reliability in Japan. Organized use of time and space helps structure things properly. Punctuality is a very important part of Japanese business etiquette. Hence it is a must to be on time for any meetings.




Bowing is considered extremely important in Japan and is a best known Japanese etiquette to the outside word. To execute bows correctly many companies provide training to their employees .The longer and deeper bow express deep emotions and the respect . Now a days while dealing with non-Japanese people, many Japanese will shake hands but if you are greeted with a bow, it is appreciated to return it with a bow. The length and angle of a bow determines the status of the relationship between two individual. It is always advised to keep your eyes low and your palms flat next to your thighs while you bow.


Business Card-

Businessman exchanging cards | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

Exchanging business cards is one of the most important business etiquette. In Japan a business card is considered an extension of one’s identity and the attention to business card etiquette is intended to show respect. It is very important to exchange business cards with care, in the beginning of the meeting but not before the bow or handshakes. Card is offered and accepted with both hands with a slight bow. Always accept the card with both hands, briefly read it and place it in your business card holder or place it on the table for the duration of the meeting and then place it in your business card holder. It’s considered inappropriate to place the business card in back pocket or wallet.



おじぎ – 写真共有サイト「フォト蔵」

Japanese people take great pride in their language and believe that cheerful greetings are important for worm and friendly atmosphere. Knowing a little bit of language and mainly the greetings will surely help to break the ice and reduce the language barrier.



C4Iシステム – Wikipedia

Hierarchy and status awareness is paramount in Japanese corporate culture. The Japanese are very conscious of age and status. In Japan most of the time age equals higher place in organizational hierarchy as promotions are usually based on seniority. In meetings seating is determined by one’s status within the company. Senior members are greeted before greeting others or business cards are offered to the senior member first. In Japanese business culture the hierarchical arrangement of employees plays an important part to generate sense of belongingness to the organization and organization draws their strength from it.


Business Gifts-

The gift | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

Gift giving in Japan is a central part of Japanese business etiquette, especially at the first meeting. There are two occasions in japan when gifts are exchanged among colleagues on July 15 to commemorate midyear and January 1 on the occasion of yearend. Gifts are always given and received by both hands to show respect. The act of gift giving is considered more important in Japanese business culture rather than the actual gift. It is always advised to give a small nicely wrapped gift, as a token and present it to the most senior person at the end of the meeting. Giving four or nine of anything and white flowers should be avoided as it is considered as unlucky.


Business Notes-

Partners Matthew Tate and Mike Velings avidly listening and taking …

It’s good and thoughtful to take notes during any meeting. In Japanese business culture it’s even more important. IT shows your interest and seriousness towards work. Taking notes also demonstrate your commitment to the business relationship.



Tokyo 499 | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

Japanese business world is conservative regarding the business attire. The Japanese business culture emphasizes on formal and neat appearance. One should always be presentable and in professional look. In japan business culture casual dressing often indicates casual approach towards business and lack of commitment . Men wear conservative business suits and blend in with the group. Women dress conservatively, in non-revealing attire and minimum accessories. It is always better to dress formally. Don’t forget to wear easy to remove shoes as in japan you may need to take them off relatively often.


Maintain a straight face-

無表情 – 写真共有サイト「フォト蔵」

Expressing and displaying your emotions is not encouraged in Japanese business culture. Inexpressive, blank faces are common in business meetings. In japan maintaining an unemotional state especially in business dealings is considered a sign of professionalism. Use caution with expressions and gestures. They can be easily misunderstood. Frequent hand gestures and unusual facial expressions should be avoided as the Japanese do not use hand gestures that often and may feel confused and distracted.


Do not use Red ink -

Fountain pen – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

One should avoid using a red pen whenever possible, and never use a red pen to write down the name of someone. This is a superstition and seen as incredibly bad. It’s a sign of death in Japan and dates back to the age of the samurai when in Japanese Samurai would post death markers painted in red ink.


It is not as complicated as it looks, right?

Understanding and following few Japanese business etiquettes will convey your genuine interest and surely impress your partners and colleagues.

So..Give it a try!!



Freelance blogger. Japanese language and culture enthusiast. Studied Japanese Language and culture from Kanazawa University, Japan. Worked as Japanese-English bilingual in Multinational companies.